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Best Beaches on the North Coast

Best Beaches on the North Coast
Explore the breath-taking scenery of the wild Sonoma and Mendocino coasts—from sandy shores to the top of a lighthouse

Glass Beach

Scavenge for pastel glass treasures at Glass Beach, Fort Bragg’s historic former trash dump that’s now one of the largest sea glass repositories in the world. Discarded beer and soda bottles, tumbled and polished by the ocean waves, have been transformed into smooth, colourful jewels. A paved trail travels north from Glass Beach through MacKerricher State Park, offering wave-breaking views of Ten Mile Beach. Walk or bike its length, then cap off the day with a beer flight at North Coast Brewing Company in downtown Fort Bragg. The taproom hosts live jazz dinner concerts on weekend nights.  

Point Arena Lighthouse

Reaching 115 feet into the sky, Point Arena Lighthouse stands sentinel on a rocky promontory, surrounded by water on three sides. Climb 145 steps to the top of this historic landmark, then soak in 360-degree views of sea stacks, rock arches, and crashing waves. Stop in at the visitor centre to see a collection of maritime photos and exhibits. Can’t bear to leave? Book a stay in the lighthouse keeper’s quarters.  

Stornetta Public Lands

Hike the paths off Lighthouse Road in Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to see sea lions, elephant seals and harbour seals. You’ll find everything a coast lover craves: blowholes, dunes, beaches, tide pools, and lingering sunsets. There’s even a waterfall in the wet season, when Stornetta Falls cascades 40 feet over the coastal bluffs and into the Pacific.

Manchester Beach

The dunes at Manchester Beach back a driftwood-laden swath of sand, ideal for long walks spent searching for washed-in treasures. Plan to leave thousands of footprints on this five-mile-long beach. When night falls, pitch your tent at Manchester State Park’s campground. 

While in Point Arena, be sure to check your tide table. During extremely low tides, walk from Schooner Gulch State Beach to Bowling Ball Beach to see its astounding assemblage of round rocks, formed by millions of years of weathering.

Sonoma Coast State Park

The picturesque town of Jenner is the gateway to dozens of beaches in Sonoma Coast State Park. Drive out to the headlands at Goat Rock Beach to watch the harbour seals’ antics, then stroll along the tan sand. Take a longer walk on the Kortum Trail, tracing along the bluff tops from Blind Beach to Shell Beach. At the mouth of the Jenner River, follow steep paths downhill from Highway 1 to Jenner Beach. Scan the seas for grey whales or snap photos of postcard-perfect offshore sea stacks.

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North Coast Best Beaches
North of San Francisco, there's a whole other world of California, where rugged cliffs, towering redwood trees, and artsy towns dot an idyllic coastline.
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Tai Power Seeff

Northern California

Discover the North Coast

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11
November
Average (°C)
Sept - Nov
17°
High
7°
Low
Dec - Feb
12°
High
5°
Low
Mar - May
14°
High
6°
Low
June - Aug
16°
High
10°
Low

Romance finds a home in this idyllic coastal region, where ocean fog rolls in from the ocean to blanket hushed redwood forests and whales spout offshore. Along the coast, artists set up their easels to paint scenes of crashing surf and whitewashed cottages wrapped in rose filled gardens.

Each year, December through May, look to the sea to witness roughly 15,000 gray whales swimming south for the summer.

It is also a place where a new generation of farmers and wine makers focus on preserving the land as well as producing amazing food and wine. Favourite escapes include the romantic hamlet of Mendocino, about three hours’ drive up the coast from San Francisco and Eureka, a former logging town two hours’ further north, and the gateway to the breath-taking Redwoods National and State Parks.

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Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake within California, is the oldest lake in North America and possibly the world.
SPECIAL FEATURE
From Gold Rush history to 8th wonders of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

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Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.
John Muir
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Kodiak Greenwood

Spotlight: Mendocino

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Discover a coastal paradise with ridiculously fresh seafood, amazing wine, and craft beer

With its dramatic ocean-bluff setting overlooking a steel-blue sea, this coastal hamlet is an obvious magnet for artists, romantics and...

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North Coast Wine Country

Slip away to some of the state’s most peaceful vineyards

From quiet vineyards surrounded by lush redwood forests along the Mendocino Coast, to the sun-drenched rolling hills of rugged Lake County,...

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Tai Power Seeff

Wine & Dine in the North Coast

Sample hyper-local foods from land and sea, plus amazing beers and wines

The North Coast might just be the perfect place to eat. Few other places in the world can offer such a harmonious blend of chefs, farmers,...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Get the inside scoop on California's most celebrated commodity

With more than 3,000 wineries statewide, California lets you sample award-winning wines almost anywhere you go. These classic and up-and-coming wine roads—some too packed with wineries to tackle...

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Temecula Valley by Kodiak Greenwood
SPECIAL FEATURE
Celebrate the seasonal bounty and quirky art-fuelled character of the North Coast

You can learn a lot about a place at its local festivals. Consider the Kinetic Grand Championship, a cosmically silly three-day battle between human-powered works of art (imagine a speeding dragon...

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The Humboldt County Fair began in 1896 and is the oldest running county fair in California.
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Humboldt County CVB

Ferndale

Visit a Victorian village where time stands still

A fairy story brought to life, this remote village features carefully preserved Victorian-era homes, a visual and architectural feast. On a...

May

Creativity, contraptions and costumes—those are the mantras for this wacky three-day Memorial Day weekend (last weekend in May) event on a wild stretch of the North Coast. Dubbed the 'triathalon...

The Kinetic Grand Championship on California's North Coast
Erik Fitzpatrick/Flickr
California's North Coast
The Skunk Train on California's North Coast
Courtesy of Skunk Train

Skunk Train

Ride a historic train through soaring coastal redwoods

Originally built in 1885 to transport redwood logs from the rugged countryside to the coast, the...

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Humboldt County CVB

Eureka

Nature and culture merge in an art-fuelled Victorian seaport

This lively seaport town, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, has split-personality charm: a sense of history in...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Sample ultra-fresh, hyper-local, and downright amazing

When you come to California, come hungry. This is a state that really knows how to cook. Amazing and innovative chefs sprinkled with Michelin stars work with local farms and artisanal food...

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George's at the Cove
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Lucas Himovitz

Fort Bragg

Rough-and-tumble lumber town morphs into a top coastal find

With its original roots as a military garrison and then a gritty lumber town, Fort Bragg skirted under the radar of most visitors. But now—perhaps...

November

Winter rains signal the beginning of the North Coast’s astounding mushroom season. Celebrate the harvest of one of the region’s most loved bounties—and a few other products of the libation variety...

Chefs at work at Feast Mendocino
Brendan McGuigan
The North Coast region of California
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While now a beautiful coastal treasure, Glass Beach initially began in the late 1940s as a place where locals would toss their trash, including glass bottles.

Wild North Coast

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Klamath

Redwoods, salmon, and California’s largest tribe all thrive in this small North Coast town

Klamath is so far north that many people assume this tiny town is in Oregon, not California. Set along its...